From a Political Junkie: Doug Ericksen Threatens to Arrest the Press

Vincent Buys, Jason Overstreet, and Doug Ericksen all came up for a town hall meeting this weekend. The local Republican party tried to scare up their members by sending out this alarmed email:

"Town Hall Meeting with 42nd District Legislators

Our Republican legislators are having town halls on Saturday to discuss what's going on in the Legislature and Democrats are organizing people to disrupt these meetings. Don't let them go Wisconsin on us! You are encouraged to peacefully participate at Saturday's Town Hall meeting.

-Peter Graves. Washington State Republican Party"

As the communications director for the Whatcom County Democrats, I wasn't aware of any party members who were planning to be disruptive, much less pull a "Wisconsin." (As if generating broad public support to peacefully congregate against anti-worker legislation is bad thing?) Now, I know several Democrats who wanted to hear their legislators talk and politely ask them questions. And that is what happened. Still, it's sad the local GOP continues to feel compelled to use fear to motivate its members. "Watch out, those scary Democrats might show up and ask someone a question. They're disruptive." OoooOOoo.

HOWEVER, I would like to note one altercation that did happen.

Shane Roth, local blogger at Latte Republic and friend of The Political Junkie, is known for filming local political events. He and his camera have been at many a council meeting or public hearing. Because this was a public event, paid for with our tax dollars, he showed up to film our representatives answering questions. As a good member of the citizen press, he arrived, set up his camera, and plugged it into the PA system so he could record some quality audio.

That's when Sen. Doug Ericksen apparently flipped out. He demanded Shane remove his plug from the PA system and not be able to get good audio of this event. Shane refused, saying he needed to get a quality recording of the event and the PA system was the best way to do it. Ericksen threatened to have him arrested. Sure, call the cops, Shane said. I just want to record this public event. I'm not trying to do anything illegal, just record what our representatives have to say. Ericksen continued to berate and demand Shane be denied audio access until a Lynden School District employee came over and, at Ericksen's biddng, removed Shane's sound cord. Shane didn't want to escalate the situation so he contented himself with getting the best sound he could.

You can read Shane's account here. If you are looking for a Republican view on what happened, check out Wally Wonders Why's account here. He did not notice any disruptive Democrats either.

So this just leaves the question, what was Doug Ericksen so worried about? With all the video "sting" operations by the Tea Party folks making the news recently (NPR, Planned Parenthood,) was he worried the local Democrats were going to use his own tactics against him? That they were going to cut and paste his words to make him look ridiculous? Or was he more concerned they wouldn't have to? That merely recording and replaying him speaking would be dangerous? Those are questions only Doug Ericksen can answer.

P.S. Finally, I would like to thank Fish and Bicycles for their recent shoutout in a round-up of local blogs here. Read their stuff. It is good.

About Riley Sweeney

Citizen Journalist • Member since Aug 10, 2009

Riley Sweeney, raised in the Pacific Northwest, moved to Bellingham during the Bush years, worked on a cross-section of political campaigns during the Obama years, and then fled to the [...]

Comments by Readers

John Servais

Mar 14, 2011

Of course, if Doug Ericksen has a different factual version of what happened, he is invited to either comment here or email me an article for posting. If he posts it as a comment, then he can post whatever without editing by anyone. 

Comments can be posted without any editorial oversight.  As all commenters know, their comments appear as soon as they click the ‘Submit’ button.  We are working to allow a preview of comments so the writer can catch typos and such.  I am aware that the right side of the comment box can get squirrelly.  We hope to fix soon. We value comments and assure readers that the names of commenters have been verified.

Writers can post anything anytime without any editorial review by myself or the copy editor Deb.  Contrary to rumors, no one reviews or censors what the 14 writers put up as articles.  I usually have no idea what is being posted - such as this article by Riley - until I check NWCitizen like any reader.  We have added new writers from time to time - as Wendy Harris and Bo Richardson have been added in the past month.

Read More...

Riley Sweeney

Mar 14, 2011

I usually wait till Deb has had a crack at it because she is a sharp editor, but I had a couple of other eyeballs take a crack at this and because it was such a recent development, I felt it needed to go up now. Like it or not, Doug Ericksen represents everyone in the 42nd, whether he agrees with them or not. This sort of behavior is unbecoming of a representative and certainly not how I would want my employees to act. We are all Doug’s employers in the 42nd, he should do well to remember that.

Read More...

Garin Wallace, aka Wally

Mar 14, 2011

I wonder how things would go down if next time Gov. Gregoire is speaking in town I, as a good member of the citizen press, arrived, set up my camera, and plugged into the PA system?  And how’d it go down if they asked me to unplug and I refused?  My guess is that it’d be a little more intense than the calm conversation I saw Apexnerd having shortly before he unplugged. 

But me, I would have called ahead or showed up early and asked permission before plugging in. Still don’t know if that’d get me a plug in, but it just seems like the right way to do things.


I wonder, would the Herald or KGMI be treated similarly if they just showed up and plugged in without asking permission?  That begs a question.  Is “citizen press” as valid as traditional press?  What are the rules? 

Would little Wally Wonders, Apexnerd, or NWCitizen clip-on ID tags get better seats or an unannounced plug in?  That could be an important question, because I don’t think this was covered by either local press.  So is the future either “citizen press” or no press?

Read More...

Riley Sweeney

Mar 14, 2011

Good question. I believe Shane did check if he was allowed to cover the event. With the steady decline of our “traditional” news sources in Whatcom County, it falls to the citizen press to tackle this sort of things. Wally, if you showed up at a Dem sponsored event, I would give you a fancy badge and put you right in the front row. I’m serious. NWCitizen hosted one of the best candidate forums last cycle. Citizen media is on the rise and local government is the best venue for this.

What do you guys think?

Read More...

Shane Roth

Mar 14, 2011

Howdy, all.

No, I didn’t check in ahead of time (sorry Riley), I just showed up and started plugging in my gear.

That was rather unceremonious of me, I suppose.

Mr Wallace strikes at the heart of the matter with his question about the difference between the professional press and the citizen press.

My short answer is as follows: media is media.

Professional journalists don’t enjoy any special status under the law. Everyone has first amendment rights of freedom of the press. Paid journalists just exercise that right on an industrial scale that most citizens don’t.

Credentialed press are a matter of professional necessity for settings like the White House and for large news gathering organizations.

While there are many practical differences between a professional journalist and a citizen journalist, in the eyes of the law, there are virtually none.

There is one basic requirement of a persons who exercise these rights though. Orderly conduct. Whether you are a professional journalist or an unpaid blogger covering an event, you are expected to conduct yourself in a manner that is lawful. You can’t justify disorderly conduct in the name of exercising your freedom of the press.

Sometimes that means not getting the footage you might prefer. Which is still better than getting a ride in the back of a squad car.

Read More...

Todd Granger

Mar 15, 2011

But Shane,

Sometimes the missing “footage” brought to the attention of America, by a reporter, ends up putting the politician in the back of a squad car.

N.Y. Times v. United States 1971 and United States v. Nixon 1974. The “smoking gun.” of the Central Political Action Committeeand their CIA burglers, for no central intellegence whatsoever. Nixon thought he was King too, as did his lawyers trained in perfect democracy. And Nixons “in camera” Burger King Justice twice citing Marshalls, United States v. Burr (1807) confused abut a Republican form, forever.
Go get Jerry Ford, he can keep him out of the back of a squad car, the never elected President, you just gotta love the democracy party, dressed up as another so called Republicans, just like Aaron Burr.

“The press confined to truth, needs no other legal restraint…”
Second Inaugural, 1st Republican 1805.

Just like another so called Tea Party Canidate, Tarred and Feathered…in a public school
http://www.politico.com/news/stories/1010/43737.html

Read More...

Elisabeth Britt

Mar 15, 2011

Hi all,
Actually, I did ask permission to video tape the meeting. Granted, it was late in the day on Friday, March 11th. But I sent an email to Ashley Forsyth, the PIO listed as a contact person on Senator Ericksen’s press release.

I have not yet received a response from her, and it is now March 15th.

Elisabeth Britt
Latte Republic

Read More...

James J Johann

Mar 16, 2011

Freedom of the press does not grant the press the liberty to do anything it wants to.  It is incumbent upon the press to be both legal and civil in pursuing its stories.

Having said that, I have over the years often video taped council meetings and other public meetings and applaud those who have the time and money to publish anything of a newsworthy nature.

Yet, it is only reasonable that the press should ask permission to “plug into” or make use of any facility that it does not own - private or public.  And if denied, it should abide by that.

The press has clearly demonstrated over the years that it can be quite unruly and uncivil in the way it invades personal space and property, and has often adopted the attitude that it can do anything it wants to.  I have no problem with keeping that it check.

It was a little out of line for the gentleman to assume that he had “rights” to connect to somebody else’s equipment.  I believe in his good will and good intentions. I wish he would have and will in the future observe the limits of his “freedom” which is not “liberty.”

Read More...

Mary Dickinson

Mar 16, 2011

Hi All,

I have a question, and it is just that, a question, because I do not know:  when is someone considered a “credentialed journalist” or not, and when is it permissible to start videotaping/recording these types of meetings when they are public, and does a person need to be officially allowed to do it, or not and who makes that determination? Also, would a coffee klatch like this be considered an open public meetings under the Open Public Meetings Act? Since it was an advertised “town hall” it would seem so to me, but I am unclear if the intent of the meeting was to be public or private (i.e. to thank supporters).  When it comes to public officials the area seems sort of gray.  I understand about public officials and defamation and all of that, but videotaping is a different type of arena.  In addition, with the rise in independent news (like our own NW Citizen) and the internet, it really makes me wonder.  Add to that all of the new voyourism laws (which obviously were adopted for important reasons), and security laws, and it gets very confusing.  I am not speaking in any way about Mr. Roth, or Mr. Johann or any specific person or situation, I am just curious in general, because with technology changing so rapidly, it seems like it is moving faster than law, and it is hard to know the proper etiquette.  This is beyond anything Emily Post thought of, I am sure. 😊 If someone could respond simply to enlighten my curiousity and educate me, I would appreciate it.

Read More...

Riley Sweeney

Mar 17, 2011

Hello Mary,

Because this was a public meeting, paid for by our tax dollars, it is an Open Meeting, the public is welcome and encouraged to attend and record the proceedings. Credential-ed journalism only applies to security clearances, and things like that for the big leagues. For local politics, we are all citizen journalists if we choose to be.

Read More...

Shane Roth

Mar 17, 2011

Ms Dickinson,

You don’t need credentials to be a journalist or to exercise you first amendment right to freedom of the press.

Credentialing of journalists is generally done as an industry standard, and I am unaware of any legal status that attaches to being a “credentialed” journalist.

While the laws on recording an event vary from state to state, in Washington state it is considered permissible to record an event when there is no reasonable expectation of privacy.

The 42nd legislators invited the public at large to a public facility and used a PA system. I submit that there is no reasonable expectation of privacy under those circumstances, and this enjoys support in Washington state case law.

Around here, if you know you are being recorded and you continue to speak, you are consenting to being recorded by implication.

I can’t speak confidently about how the OPMA factors into Town Hall meetings, perhaps some other NW citizen can sound off on that.

Read More...

Bill Black

Mar 17, 2011

OK here’s my Decision. Shane should have asked the permission of the school staff, or whoever owned the audio equipment, before he plugged in. Doug Ericksen, however, is instructed to give up his bad boy persona and act like he respects and represents all his constituents.

Read More...

Mary Dickinson

Mar 17, 2011

Thanks for answering my questions and for clarifying these issues for me, Riley, Mr. Roth, and everyone.  I always did wonder about them, and now I know! 😊  A huge thank you and kudos once again to NW Citizen and John Servais for providing this website and forum.  I enjoy getting local news, information, commentary and “education” and “enlightenment” on Whatcom County and Northwest issues that I otherwise would hear nothing about.
😊

Read More...

Shane Roth

Mar 19, 2011

Mr Black,

Get KING 5, KOMO 4, KVOS, KGMI, and James O’Keefe to sign off on your solution and I’ll consider signing off on it myself.

Can’t speak for Senator Ericksen, though.

Read More...

Bill Black

Mar 20, 2011

Mr. Roth, I want you to get those high quality audios you need. I’d be willing to chip in towards the acquisition of a microphone with which you could work.

Read More...

David Camp

Mar 26, 2011

To me the bigger question is why Mr. Ericksen was so concerned that his words would be recorded? Why would he want the proceedings to not be reported on, to be secret? What has he got to hide from the people he is supposed to represent?

Mr. Ericksen, this is America, not communist China. We have free speech here, despite your efforts to hamper its exercise. You might want to take a peek at the Constitution, of which it seems you have apparently forgotten several key elements, such as the first amendment.

Read More...

Rob Stratton

Mar 29, 2011

Mary Dickenson,

Public Officials engaging or dealing with the public need not give consent for you to lawfully record. You can even record them discreetly, something I recommend to anyone who maybe trying to further civil rights and may have run in’s with public figures.

A good read on this is State vs. Flora.

I have talked to Doug personally on the phone and he is checking tinto another matter for me with the AG. He seemed pleasant and friendly and surprised me by calling me back personally when I had left a message about my problem with his office. Only the future will tell if he follows through or not.

Read More...
To comment, Log In or Register